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People to Plants


By the end of the 19th century, the Southwestern landscape was changing as a result of all the new activities of mining, agriculture, cattle and sheep ranching, tourism and development. Dams were built to harness the waters of the major rivers, irrigation channels were constructed, and many new crops were being introduced into the region.

One of the most exotic crop introductions was cotton. The disruption of shipping by World War I created a strong home market for agricultural products. The extra-long-staple strain of cotton which produced a strong industrial fabric (particularly useful in the production of tires) and was previously imported from Egypt and the Sudan, found a new home in Arizona where the growing season was favorable and long. The newly completed Roosevelt Dam provided the irrigation for this product, and the inflated market prices encouraged several farmers in the Salt River Valley to plant the crop. Tire production companies such as Goodyear, Firestone and Dunlop bought their own land to grow cotton and also contracted with farmers. By 1916, 7,300 acres were being grown, by 1918 69,000 acres, and by 1920 180,000. In other regions, the Yuma valley increased from 11,000 acres in 1917 to 27,000 in 1920, and in Pinal County production went from 2,500 acres in 1919 and 9,000 acres in 1920. Alfalfa and dairying lost ground when irrigated land became a premium and cotton demanded such high prices. The economy was being driven by the three C's -- Cattle, Copper, and Cotton! (Sheridan, 1995 p. 123)

The cotton crash came after the end of the war in 1920, when the restrictions on Egyptian cotton were lifted. Prices tumbled to 28 cents from the expected $1.50 per pound. The farm population declined by 20%, and the field workers were severely affected (see Sheridan, 1995, Chap. 11, "Water and Cotton" for more detailed statistics). Included in this section of the exhibition is a pamphlet providing data on cotton growing in the Salt River Valley.

But, exotic does not only imply introductions! It can also mean things unusual or beyond ordinary. The most staple plant of the desert itself, the cactus, can be considered exotic, especially when seen growing freely and abundantly in such varieties for the first time. One pamphlet tells the story of the cactus. Another example of the exotic is the legend of the candy made from the barrel cactus, entitled the Legend of the Visnaga. And it is difficult to imagine anything more beyond ordinary than driving through the desert in 1923 in a Rolls Royce! 

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Pamphlet Descriptions

Detail of front cover The Board of Trade, Phoenix, Arizona
Cotton Arizona-Egyptian
Phoenix, Arizona: R.A. Watkins Printing Co.
Circa 1913, 8 pages
OB9791 Pam. 42
[0.2 MB]

This pamphlet, issued by the Board of Trade in Phoenix, provides information and statistics on the Egyptian Long Staple Cotton grown in the Salt River Valley. It gives guidelines for seed selection, planting, cultivation, irrigation requirements and thinning, as well as land prices and costs and returns per acre.

Detail of front cover John Hicks Leasure
The Story of Cactus
[El Paso, Texas]
1939, 24 pages
OB9791 Pam. 35
[0.2 MB]

This handy black-and-white pamphlet tells you all you need to know about the cactus. As well as giving information on what they are, where they grow, the different types, and how to cultivate them, you can find out how they got their name (after a town in Greece called Kaktos, which means spiney plant), and their different uses (did you know you can make wine from the prickly pear, as well as eat the fruit in salads and stews). The dictionary at the back of the pamphlet is accompanied with descriptive illustrations of botanical features.

Detail of front cover Legend of the Visnaga
[Phoenix, Arizona: Donofrios Fine Confections]
(no date), 2 pages
OB9791 Pam. 2
[0.8 MB]

This pamphlet, with its very exotic cover, describes the legend of cactus candy. It was produced by the candy maker, Donofrio, of Phoenix. It invites the modern man to follow the story of the legend and present his lady love with a box of this delicious treat in order to secure her devotion!

Detail of front cover Frederick Phillips
Two Letters on Trans-Continental Touring
1923, 9 pages
C9791 Pam. 172
[0.3 MB]

This pamphlet contains two charming accounts of Frederick Phillips travels between Yuma and Phoenix in a Rolls-Royce. He writes first from Albuquerque, NM, to a Mr. Doolittle of Pennsylvania Motors. "Well, here I am and the Rolls-Royce hasn't fallen apart yet, ..." The second is to a Mr. Southern of Rolls-Royce of America, commenting, "Many times I was told that I couldn't get through but I did and feel that 17 days was a good proof of what a Rolls could do." The pamphlet is illustrated with photographs of the Rolls in various locations along the route.

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